This article describes the great depression period in the United States, its causes and effects. There are many viewpoints exists on the events of the great depression period and this article will discuss events through two main philosopher viewpoints – one from Emily Durkheim and other from Karl Marx. Causes of the great depression in the USA: The great depression period in the late 1920’s in the United States was the worst time defined in economic history.
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When the stock market crashed in 1929, it created a financial panic among the wall street investors and is considered as begun of the great depression period. However, on the surface, this event looks like a starting point, according to multiple social thinkers and philosphers of the nineteenth century this event was inevitable. Karl Marx ViewPoint: Karl Marx, German philosopher, and sociologist of the nineteenth century believed that events like dramatic stock market crash are inevitable in a capitalist society due to inequality of wealth and class conflict in society. Marx was one of the greatest critics of capitalism. According to Marx: Commodities are the economic cells of capitalism (Russell, p26). He found two types of economic value: use and exchange.
Use value is the importance that any good has for a human being. And exchange value is the relative worth of the commodity in the market transaction. Pre-capitalized societies were focused on the use value – what is good for the planet and an individual being. The products were dictated by human needs rather than the market conditions. However, The primary goal of capitalism is to produce commodities that have the most exchange value rather than to produce goods that are useful to society. In extreme cases, if the products are bringing profit at the cost of harming human life is also acceptable.
Cigarettes are the best example of such a commodity, it is scientifically proven that it is harmful to a human being but still being produced as there is a market and has a profitable exchange value. Marx also saw humans labor as commodities. Commodity – the unit of exchange – include goods, money, and human labor.(Russell, p26). In capitalist society, the industries uses human labor for mass production. Workers are responsible for a part of the product and most of the time have no control or visibility on the distribution or market place. They get paid for their time and don’t own anything. Since workers do not own the product, it is up to the owners to destribute surplus, the profit earned on the product.
This was considered as one of the factors that lead to the great depression – The rich was taking advantage of the working class by paying unfair wage and demending unfair hours and keeping the surplus, profit, to themselves, creating wealth inequality in the society. Also, people themselves are seen as commodities in the capitalist society. Marx called the market demand as an alien force. It has been artificially created by industries and he called this a False consciousness – It is imposed by a powerful class or group that are not in the person’s own best interest. Ideas such as the emphasis of competition over cooperation, or of hard work being its own reward, clearly benefit the owners of industry. Therefore, workers are less likely to question their place in society and assume individual responsibility for existing conditions. In Capitalism, the market conditions are the alien force that drives how people work and consume, dictate their lives. But it is human themselves that has created this force and will destroy them. True consciousness, in Marx’s way of inverting the Hegelian dialectic, would require breaking the bonds of alienated religious and market superstitious. (Russell, p 27)
Marx saw the whole society as a static and rigid triangle divided into different classes based on wealth. On the base of the triangle, he saw working class as the foundation and on the very top, he saw the politician and rich industrialist. Marx described capitalist society as an alienated act – What dictates consumption is not human need but also possession of money. Alienation as a whole means that an individual has no control over his life – as an individual who is not an owner cannot relate to its work and due to competition feeling alienated with others. Marx realized that owning and finding a sense of self in what we do is important for an individual essense and capitalist is taking that away from an individual.
Additionally, Marx saw the class conflict in society as the primary means of change. Economically, he saw conflict existing between the owners of the means of production??”the rich and the working class. So, according to Marx the crash of the stock market is the begining of the class conflict and it is inevitable. It was an indication that worker class rose from the bottom to fight the owners. It’s the first sign of rebel – first collapse of capitalism.
Depression Period In The United States. (2019, Nov 18).
Retrieved May 24, 2022 , from
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